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pam claughton

Cookbook writers on eGullet

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Are there many cookbook writers here? Or aspiring ones? I am working on my first cookbook proposal, and wondered who else on egullet might have already published a cookbook, or is working on or thinking about doing one?

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We have quite a few. But I'll leave it up to them to pipe up and give their own suggestions about how to help their potential competition. :biggrin:

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Michael Ruhlman, Paula Wolfert and Anthony Bourdain are regulars here.

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We have quite a few.  But I'll leave it up to them to pipe up and give their own suggestions about how to help their potential competition. :biggrin:

I'm not looking for any specific help, was just curious who else is floating around out there and to be honest, am procrastinating a bit, taking a little break, before diving back in.

:)

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Let's not forget Russ Parsons, Marlena Spieler, Clifford Wright, Dorie Greenspan, and Mimi Sheraton.

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they're a helluva lot harder than you ever imagine when you start out...

Michael, I'm sure that we all would be very interested to know a bit more about the challenges you faced, given the amazing accomplishments that are the books on which you've worked.

To that end, I'm sure we'd all love to hear from any of the authors in our midst on the subject!

edited to add:

Is it safe to assume that Making and Soul were relatively solitary affairs, whereas the cookbooks were deeply collaborative and thus more, or differently, challenging?


Edited by chrisamirault (log)

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they're a helluva lot harder than you ever imagine when you start out...

Yes, but that's usually because of the hardcover binding they acquire at the end of the process... :blink:

Levity aside, I gotta hand it to the person with the rocks to hold down an actual job and do all of the work to put together a real cookbook where they test the recipes and everything. There's a lot of motivation and sweat equity that goes into that. Best of luck!

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Let's not forget Russ Parsons, Marlena Spieler, Clifford Wright, Dorie Greenspan, and Mimi Sheraton.

Not to mention that we have a number of food authors who have written things other than cookbooks. Mr. Shaw comes to mind. But getting back to cookbook authors for a moment, isn't it great that we have the team of Bourdain and Ruhlman to act as our own version of Abbott & Costello (they can argue it out over who has to be Abbott)? :raz:

I am quite fascinated by the process of cookbook writing though. It seems key these days that you have to have a "hook" of some kind. You can't just be some body off the street binding your favorites together into a volume. There has to be a theme of some kind. It might be a region, a type of cuisine, a technique, or even a person, but there's got to be something.

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But getting back to cookbook authors for a moment, isn't it great that we have the team of Bourdain and Ruhlman to act as our own version of Abbott & Costello (they can argue it out over who has to be Abbott)?  :raz:

...

"Who's on garde."

"THAT's what I've been asking you!! Who's on guard?"

"Yes, Who's on garde. He's got a deft touch with dressing."

"Why does he need to guard the dressing?!?"

...

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Let's not forget Russ Parsons, Marlena Spieler, Clifford Wright, Dorie Greenspan, and Mimi Sheraton.

Yup. And our own Monica Bhide, who has written several good Indian cookbooks as well.

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We wrote a collaborative cookbook last year called Vancouver Cooks--an aggregation of 110 recipes from 54 chefs. It was published by The Chefs' Table Socirty of British Columbia, with proceeds being allocated to providing scholarships, locums and stages for emerging local chefs. It was detailed work, but we survived the process because we built the book on a pyramid that was designed to maximize human assets:

1. The 54 chefs' recipes were collected by six of the top culinary PR professionals in the city--everyone involved with the project (excepting the photographers and food stylist) were unpaid volunteers.

2. Recipes were collated by my co-editor and me. We threw a lot out, balanced the book by way of starter, entree, dessert and also by ingredient use. We recalibrated recipes where required. We did not want a hardcover food porn book, but rather a stylish but useful book that would show up in home kitchens, boats and cottages.

3. The bottom line for ingredients was that they had to be available at major city markets, or a few specialty shops.

4. The bottom line re the accessibility of recipes was that they had to be straightforward for a mid-level home cook, but doable by all.

5. We paid the photographers (a major cost of any cook book) with modest advances and contra from the 54 participating restaurants. They will eat very well over the next year.

6. In addition to selling the book through the usual chain outlets and independents across the country, the book was also hand-sold (often autographed) in the 54 participating restaurants. One restaurauteur sold more than 300 over Christmas.

7. The six culinary PR professionals launched a marketing campaign that augmented that of the publisher. We also ensured that tourism authorities and major travel whoelsalers bought books by the caseload to use as presentos and corporate gifts. We also marketed to many companies as Christmas gifts to augment the usual bottle of wine.

8. The book exceeded expectations, borne out by the market: the press run sold out in two months and has already been reprinted at a higher royalty share.

That's it.

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There is also Suvir Suran.

As for myself I am an aspiring one. The first one that I'm working on is on Algerian cookery with alot of historical information and personal narrative in it. The one I have on the back burner is about the Burgundy and the Rhone specifically Lyon and the Beaujolais.

It is alot of work. I couldn't do it alone while working full time. I'm fortunate enough to have a married a woman who has a deep interest in food, research and writing.

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Pam:

What is your book on? Would you consider blogging the process (would that be boring?) Do you have a publisher for it or will you shop it once it is complete? Very interesting topic!

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I'm working on a cookbook (with a hook) as we speak. It will be about 200 pages. Two publishers have expressed interest in pulishing it but an editor friend has suggested I tweak it slightly and pitch the project to a large national retailer, who would pay for publishing and promoting it. I'd have to give up all rights and take a flat fee with a small percentage after a certain ponit of sales. I would also be willing to travel the country to pitch the book by doing cooking demos in their stores using their products.

I have one book (a guide book) already published called, "New Mexico Chow Restaurants for the Rest of Us" published by The Intrepid Traveler. In fact it got a rave review today on: www.RoadTripAmerica.com.

I have no clue what kind of flat fee is realistic for an unknown writer like myself (I'm assuming the book would do well for them). Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Many Thanks,

Chow Guy

Scott Sharot

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Let me just warn you, Pam. Like The Little Red Hen, you'll have plenty of volunteers and input during recipe testing, but when it comes to copyreading . . . :wink:

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"Who's on garde."

"THAT's what I've been asking you!! Who's on guard?"

"Yes, Who's on garde. He's got a deft touch with dressing."

"Why does he need to guard the dressing?!?"

:laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh:

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I'm working on a cookbook (with a hook) as we speak. It will be about 200 pages. Two publishers have expressed interest in pulishing it but an editor friend has suggested I tweak it slightly and pitch the project to a large national retailer, who would pay for publishing and promoting it. I'd have to give up all rights and take a flat fee with a small percentage after a certain ponit of sales. I would also be willing to travel the country to pitch the book by doing cooking demos in their stores using their products.

I am sure you know that most cookbooks don't make back their advances. That said, there is no stopping those who want to engage in this sort of self punishment!

On the other hand, the opportunity to develop a national name and good sales numbers in a short amount of time is something to really think about.Why not follow up with your own book with a big time publisher when you have that behind you. That is what "they" want.

Keep us posted.

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abbott and costello. that fucking hurts.

i'm not going to push for a newman redford comparison, but can't we at least say dean martin and jerry lewis?

it's hard enough being associated with that media whore.

more on the cookbooks later, interesting thread, happy to write more but gotta cook dinner.

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We wrote a collaborative cookbook last year called Vancouver Cooks--an aggregation of 110 recipes from 54 chefs. It was published by The Chefs' Table Socirty of British Columbia, with proceeds being allocated to providing scholarships, locums and stages for emerging local chefs. It was detailed work, but we survived the process because we built the book on a pyramid that was designed to maximize human assets:

1. The 54 chefs' recipes were collected by six of the top culinary PR professionals in the city--everyone involved with the project (excepting the photographers and food stylist) were unpaid volunteers.

2. Recipes were collated by my co-editor and me. We threw a lot out, balanced the book by way of starter, entree, dessert and also by ingredient use. We recalibrated recipes where required. We did not want a hardcover food porn book, but rather a stylish but useful book that would show up in home kitchens, boats and cottages.

3. The bottom line for ingredients was that they had to be available at major city markets, or a few specialty shops.

4. The bottom line re the accessibility of recipes was that they had to be straightforward for a mid-level home cook, but doable by all.

5. We paid the photographers (a major cost of any cook book) with modest advances and contra from the 54 participating restaurants. They will eat very well over the next year.

6. In addition to selling the book through the usual chain outlets and independents across the country, the book was also hand-sold (often autographed) in the 54 participating restaurants. One restaurauteur sold more than 300 over Christmas.

7. The six culinary PR professionals launched a marketing campaign that augmented that of the publisher. We also ensured that tourism authorities and major travel whoelsalers bought books by the caseload to use as presentos and corporate gifts. We also marketed to many companies as Christmas gifts to augment the usual bottle of wine.

8. The book exceeded expectations, borne out by the market: the press run sold out in two months and has already been reprinted at a higher royalty share.

That's it.

Jamie,

Thank you for posting this! I appreciate the insight and information. I'm a bit of a research junkie, especially when it comes to the business side of publishing/marketing and now cookbooks.

Pam

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Do I need an agent? I've been researching this and have been in contact with a few who are interested. But I'm still sure if an agent is necessary.

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Pam:

What is your book on?  Would you consider blogging the process (would that be boring?)  Do you have a publisher for it or will you shop it once it is complete?  Very interesting topic!

Genny,

My idea is a new twist on a beginner's cookbook. I pitched it to a few publishers, and they are interested in seeing the proposal, so I am planning to get that out this week. I hadn't thought about blogging the process. I do have a fairly new food blog, so if there is any good news to share, it will be there.

:) Pam

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I'm working on a cookbook (with a hook) as we speak. It will be about 200 pages. Two publishers have expressed interest in pulishing it but an editor friend has suggested I tweak it slightly and pitch the project to a large national retailer, who would pay for publishing and promoting it. I'd have to give up all rights and take a flat fee with a small percentage after a certain ponit of sales. I would also be willing to travel the country to pitch the book by doing cooking demos in their stores using their products.

I have one book (a guide book) already published called, "New Mexico Chow Restaurants for the Rest of Us" published by The Intrepid Traveler. In fact it got a rave review today on: www.RoadTripAmerica.com.

I have no clue what kind of flat fee is realistic for an unknown writer like myself (I'm assuming the book would do well for them). Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Many Thanks,

Chow Guy

Scott Sharot

Scott,

I would advise you to speak with an agent before agreeing to anything. If you have a strong hook, and potential retail partner, you may be in a good position to negotiate. An agent could best advise you on what would be most beneficial. It might not be in your best interest to agree to a flat fee. You could be giving up quite a lot......or not, depending on the terms. An agent that specializes in cookbooks could steer you in the right direction. Be sure to let them know that you have strong publisher interest. Several agents that come to mind, among the many that handle cookbooks, are Doe Coover, Lisa Ekus, and Jane Dystel, but there are many others as well.

Pam

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